Glass

I promised pond insects yesterday, so pond insects you shall receive!  The theme for my Photography 101 course for the day is “glass” and that’s perfect for the type of aquatic insect photography I do.  If you want to photograph things in water, there are a few ways to do it.  You can put the subject in a small, shallow bowl and shoot it from above, but then you miss out on a lot of fun angles and interesting behavior shots.  You can get a waterproof camera, but none of them are nearly as good at macro work as I need them to be for the sorts of shots I’m after.  My way is one I learned from an awesome photographer, Steve Maxson, at an insect photography workshop in 2011. It’s more or less the same technique used by a lot of the people you’ll see posting photos of aquatic insects online.  Basically, you fill a transparent vessel (I use a small aquarium) with water, place your subjects in the tank, and you shoot the photos through the side of the tank with whatever camera you favor.  It’s a great method and lets you get some great shots using the equipment you already have, no special waterproof housing required!

So, here are a few new shots of aquatic insects underwater using my 2.5 gallon aquarium setup and shooting with my Canon 7D and MP-E 65 lens through the glass. All of these are predators, so they’re among the meat eaters in the pond.  First up, a couple of predaceous diving beetles, a small one…

Predacious diving beetle

Predacious diving beetle (I am tentatively IDing this one as Laccophilus fasciatus)

… and a larger one:

Predacious diving beetle

Predacious diving beetle (Agabus disintegratus, I think)

And these are true bugs, a giant water bug…

Giant water bug

Giant water bug (Belostoma flumineum)

… and a creeping water bug:

creeping water bug

Creeping water bug (Pelocoris sp., likely femoratus)

The beetles have chewing mouthparts, so they eat smallish things that they can chew up quickly.  They eat a lot of insects, aquatic worms, and other invertebrates, though every now and again you’ll see a bunch of them pile onto something like a sickly or injured fish that’s not strong enough to get away.  The bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts, so they cannot chew their food.  Instead, they grab their prey, jab it with a hypodermic needle-like mouthpart, and inject paralytic chemicals and digestive enzymes.  The chemicals both paralyze the prey and liquefy its tissues.  Once the tissues are nice and soupy, the bug will suck up the juices through its mouthpart like a straw. Essentially, true bugs are digesting their food outside of their body, which they need the paralytic to accomplish.  It takes a LONG time for a true bug to eat anything! However, the paralytic also allows them to eat much larger food, like larger insects, small tadpoles, and fish.  It also gives their bite a little extra punch, should you accidentally step on one or grab one without realizing it.

Photographing aquatic insects is totally my happy place – and I hope some of you will give it a try.  It’s amazing what you can learn by simply following an insect around a tank with a camera for a few days!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

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Water

Today’s Photography 101 topic is practically made for me: water!  Here’s my choice of photo:

  
This is a waterfall on the same creek I shared yesterday, in Sabino Canyon just outside Tucson, AZ. I share it because it’s water, but also bacause it illustrates something important in stream habitats, a natural barrier.  This creek is full of crayfish.  Crayfish don’t belong in Arizona and every species you can find there is invasive.  They compete with native species in the state’s streams and alter the habitats as they burrow into streambeds.  I always hated coming across crayfish when I was working in streams in Arizona as the streams where you found them were often highly impaired.

However, a lot of aquatic species have a hard time moving further upstream once they encounter a natural barrier like a waterfall.  In Arizona, waterfalls are often the furthest upstream you’ll find invasive species like crayfish.  In fact, in this particular stream, you find crayfish up to a point called Anderson Dam (a little further upstream from this waterfall), but not any further upstream.  That also means that some species are only found above the dam, such as a cool species of damselfly called the Sabino dancer.  The species is found outside of this canyon in a few other places nearby, but this is one of the best places to see them.

Waterfalls are beautiful, but also important dividers in stream systems.  That makes them both beautiful AND interesting to me, so I’m always happy to come across a waterfall.

I am going to be traveling tomorrow, so probably won’t be able to get a post up until Friday, but I’m going to keep at it for a while.  Look for another new post coming soon!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.